Monday, June 14, 2010

Next Fall

Yes, today is June 21st, the first day of summer. The fall semester does not begin for a couple months, yet several steps have already been taken in establishing solid community service opportunities for the disABILITY Enlightenment Project, its members, and anyone else who would like to involve themselves.

For those of you who are not returning students, the Stonehill College Campus reserves part of itself for the nonprofit organization named the HOPe House (or the House of Possibilities). This house and its staff dedicate themselves to giving respite to people with disABILITIES. Currently, services range between overnight respite, daily living skills, exercise, art and music therapy, nutrition, and Saturday Night Live events; still, Paula Kavoulis and David Dacosta (integral staff members at the house) continously and consistently attempt to branch out and extend their services. In the upcoming year, the disABILITY Enlightenment Project will aid the house in doing so.

On Wednesdays and Fridays between 10 and noon, HOPe House young adults come to Stonehill College to learn in a classroom, explore campus on their own, socialize, and experience college. If we, as members of this project along with other Stonehill students, join these adults during these times, then we will give them a more empowering and enthusiastic experience while they meander through our campus. On these days, we do not require sign-ups beforehand. We enthusiastically encourage anyone (old members, new members, nonmembers) to partake at any time. The HOPe House has not divuldged in developing stringent activity plans for these Wednesday and Friday trips to Stonehill. One art history major, however, volunteered to teach art history and fine arts lessons during Friday sessions. If anyone else would like to embark on a similar activity and teach lessons of their area of expertise, please email me so we bring these plans into fruition. In addition to these Wednesday and Friday "classroom days", HOPe clients also make their way to campus on Tuesdays. From 1 to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, HOPe clients come to the sports complex to work out, socialize, and play sports. The disABILITY Enlightenment Project invites athletes and students of all abilities to come in to converse and exercise with HOPe clients. The biggest, most important event to the majority of young adult HOPe clients proves to be the Saturday Night Live events.

On the third Saturday of each month, the HOPe House hosts SNL for its young adults. These events last from 6 to 9 p.m. and always have a theme. For example, last month's SNL theme was baseball; thus, the night consisted of watching the game, wearing baseball (mostly Red Sox) attire, eating ballpark food, etc. To date, only a handful of Stonehill students have attended any SNL. dEP hopes to improve upon this. With hope, dEP members and fellow Stonehill students will come in, hang out, enjoy themselves, and put joy in the HOPe young adults. As of yet, the SNL events have not been photographed. Due to this, not every young adult HOPe attendee has had the opportunity to see what SNLs are like and thus, have not made the effort to attend themselves. The HOPe House invites ANYone with a camera, photography student or not, to come in and take pictures so young adults, parents, community members, and donors can see the benefits of hosting SNL. Please, if you would like to volunteer your services (or your friends' for that matter), either contact the dEP or simply show up! In preparation for each SNL, an email will be sent out to address the theme and any particular activities that will be held.

This year, the disABILITY Enlightenment Project hopes to expand in the area of community service and to further its educational aspect. As more activities are solidified, more posts and emails will be on their way! Until then, enjoy your summer :-)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Farewell Ally! Hello New Year.

For those of you who don't know Ally, she jump started the disABILITY Enlightenment Project and she finishes her final year at Stonehill this week. Ally has done a great job putting the group out there and creating a dialogue about disABILITIES, so I would like to commend her and thank her for contributing so greatly to a project that I hope to see grow and kept viable.

With people and individuals being slandered in emails, in listservs, in dorms, and even in class, disABILTY education still proves itself necessary. Next year, The disABILITY Enlightenment Project will continue to educate the community about disABILITIES; additionally, it aims to aid the community. Even though Ally will be leaving us, she did not leave us without helping us produce a promising possible agenda for this upcoming year. With hope, our agenda includes a prominent famous speaker, a comedian, a movie series, a poster presentation, an attendance to Deaf Advocacy Day, an attendance to a concert, volunteering at the Hope House, helping out with Special Olympics, volunteering to shuttle people with disABILITIES, and hosting a disABILITY symposium for college students in the region. I hope that after seeing what we aim to do, you will want to take a part in this project and aim with us! The more interest we have, the more events we can do!

To Ally and our additional seniors, farewell and good luck! We wish you the best.

To those returning to Stonehill next year, keep a watch out for emails and blog posts over the summer. If you have any thoughts or possible events that could benefit the group or could enlighten the community, we'd love to hear them and love for you to contact us. We hope you have a GREAT break, and we hope to see you in the fall!!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Disability Rights Movement

So the other day for my Disability? class I presented on the topic of Politics, Activism, and Disability and I talked about how it is difficult for things to be accomplished politically without a grassroots effort.

Part of my presentation that intrigued me the most was an event that happened in April 1977 regarding Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. According to the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF):

Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act was the first disability civil rights law to be enacted in the United States. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in programs that receive federal financial assistance, and set the stage for enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Section 504 works together with the ADA and IDEA to protect children and adults with disabilities from exclusion, and unequal treatment in schools, jobs and the community.

The problem was that although the act had been passed in 1973, by 1977 the government was still not enforcing the legislation, so people all over the country organized sit-ins in Federal offices. The most successful of all of the sit-ins was in San Francisco where over a hundred people occupied the halls of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare for nearly four weeks until Health and Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano endorsed the regulations.

The thing that shocked me the most about all of this was, why didn't I hear about this before? I didn't even know about this event until I started independently researching it. Why aren't we taught about this movement in elementary school when we talk about all of the other great civil rights movements of our time? One of the books I read described the disability rights movement as the "last civil rights movement." It was a major part of American history, and it baffles me that we do not learn more about it throughout our education.

This was not the only major disability rights movement either. Here are some other major events taken from the disability social history project time line:

A group in New York City called the League for the Physically Handicapped formed to protest discrimination by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The league's 300 people -- most disabled by polio and cerebral palsy -- all had been turned down for WPA jobs. The Home Relief Bureau of New York City was supposed to forward their job requests to the WPA, but was stamping all their applications 'PH' for physically handicapped, as a signal to the WPA not to give these people jobs. Members of the league sat in at the Home Relief Bureau for nine days; and went to the WPA headquarters and held a weekend sit-in there. They eventually generated a couple thousand jobs nationwide.

Ed Roberts and his peers at Cowell (UC Berkeley Health Center) formed a group called the Rolling Quads.

Disabled Women's Coalition founded at UC Berkeley by Susan Sygall and Deborah Kaplan. Other women involved include Kitty Cone, Corbett O'Toole, and Susan Schapiro. The coalition ran support groups, held disabled women's retreats, wrote for feminist publications, and lectured on women and disability.

"Deaf President Now" protest at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. First deaf president at Gallaudet: Dr. I. King Jordan

Greyhound across the nation - ADAPT takes on the inaccessible Greyhound buses.

ADAPT action - Washington DC, Wheels of Justice

What was really cool about this was that persons with disabilities used this opportunity to climb the capitol steps, either leaving their wheelchairs behind or bringing them up the steps with them.

An account by disability rights activist, Michael Winters, describes the event as such:

We started chanting "What do we want?" "ADA!" "When do we want it?" "NOW!" The chants became louder and louder, and ultimately my good friend Monica Hall told me that it was time to get out of my wheelchair and crawl up the steps to the Capitol Building. Monica took my wheelchair, smiled and said, "I'll meet you at the top!" I started to climb step by step towards the top.

At the very beginning, I looked up and thought that I would never make it. But right below me was a seven year old girl who was making the same climb, step by step, her wheelchair left somewhere below or whisked somewhere above. This was Tom Olin's young niece. I felt an obligation to be a role model for this girl and we ultimately made it to the top together.

(26-July-1990) ADA signing ceremony at the White House.

I think there should be a push for education about the disability rights movement, as it is a major part of American history. Who knows? It could have the power to inspire American children, therefore resulting in more civil rights movements in the future so we can aspire to becoming a more just and equal society.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Art and disABILITY

The subject of disABILITY and art is something that has always interested me, and art isn't really something I know a lot about, but I like it and I'm always willing to learn more. Right now, the disABILITY Enlightenment Project is working on a 3-D art display. I won't spill any of our secrets until it is done, but I'm hoping it will come out great!

Anyway, I've always thought art was a great way to help along any sort of activism, and some of the things people have done with disABILITY and art have been pretty cool, whether it be that the subject of the piece is disABILITY or that the artist is disabled.

I stumbled upon this guy, Doug Landis on the internet the other day (when I probably should have been doing homework...) and I thought it was pretty cool! I am amazed by the art people can produce by using parts of the body other than their hands.

I've also seen clips of the movie King Gimp, which is a documentary based on Dan Keplinger. Dan is an artist who has cerebral palsy and on his website when he is asked, "Physically how do you paint - put paints out on your palette, hold a brush, position the canvas so you can reach it?" his answer is as follows:

I paint sitting on the floor in a W seated position and my brushes are taped to my head stick dowel. I have a selection of 15 brushes taped to dowels so my friends only have to change dowels in my head stick. For palettes I use Tupperware hors d'oeuvres trays that have seven sections.

Before I paint we create all of the colors that I want to use. I have foam that is about six inches thick and it covers 2/3 of my living room floor to save my knees. The canvas lays flat on the floor with jars of paint-thinner in each corner so I don't have to move them as I go around the painting; I just drag the palette around with me. I rip up my old clothes and use them as rags. I work in my apartment so I can paint whenever I feel like it. I do not sleep that well so I sometimes pull a pillow from my bed and nap on the floor by the painting.

This is one of Dan's pieces that I really like:

Another artist who uses disABILITY as a subject matter actually came to Stonehill this past fall. As a part of their common experience, the class of 2013 all watched the documentary, Examined Life. The film was made by Astra Taylor, and her sister Sunaura Taylor was one of the featured people in the documentary. Both Astra and Sunaura were able to come to Stonehill to speak, and what I found really cool was that Sunaura uses disABILITY as a subject matter and is also an artist with a disability. She uses art as a form of activism, not only for disABILITY rights, but for animal rights as well.

I found the following statement she wrote here:

Someone recently asked me if I thought my disability affects why and how I paint. What this person wanted to know was not how I paint without use of my arms or how I reach the top of my very tall canvases despite my size, but how my sense of seeing evolved due to my disability. I do everything with my mouth- I cook, clean, kiss, sing, carry, and paint through my teeth, jaw, tongue and lips... and my mouth is very close to my eyes. I see so many things most people don't get the opportunity to really see. When something is carried between one's teeth it means it must have at one point been staring them in the eye. Right now my eyes are about four inches from my keyboard as I type holding a pen. Every shadow, every color change, every shape and piece of grime is there for my eye. This is how I learned to see detail, to pay attention to my visual world, to in effect, fall in love with the act of seeing. My mouth taught me. From my wheelchair I also learned how to see, how to watch the world. Since my tactile skills are weak, my body made up for this by constantly exercising my eyes. I watched the things that others touched. I watched as I waited, as I moved.

My paintings are not at all only about the body, but the body is inevitably an aspect of my relationship with whatever it is that I am seeing. My body has taught me how to use my eyes to not only see, but to also touch, and grab, and embrace. The body inevitably is always in my images, but this is largely because my images are all of people close to me and they all have bodies (all sorts of bodies). This is also because the body itself is a good place to explore seeing, especially the body of someone you know well, because you see not only the physical, but the emotional and psychological. In a loved one, the intangible realities of sadness, joy, love, confusion, hatred, and humor, can become visual through the body and through the space that the body exists in and through its movements. In this way what my mouth is trying to teach me to see, is not only physical, but is feeling. I want to see what I feel and what the world feels.

I also want to paint and see politics, because I was born into them. I have a rare congenital disability called Arthrogryposis that was caused by toxic waste contamination in our groundwater, from the world’s largest polluter, the US military. I am now twenty-four, use a wheelchair for mobility and my mouth to paint. I grew up in a household of artists and anti-war activists, which perhaps made the knowledge that my body was formed by the industry of war, even more traumatic. I began at twelve to express myself and deal with these emotions through paint. Painting is a love of seeing. It is a way of sensually participating in the world through the filter of one’s eyes, to try to see both the most obscure and consuming inner world, and the objective reality of light and shadow, texture and color. I paint people I love and emotions that swallow me, but although my works are emotional portraits, they are largely also political statements on war, ideas of normalcy, and issues of identity and expression.

Art involving disABILITY does not need to be something we would see in a museum either, it could be in other forms- like music, film, or writing.

Grace posted this to our facebook page a while back and it is a journal of disability culture and literature.

If anybody else finds any art involving the subject of disABILITY, please forward it my way! I also can't wait to unveil the disABILITY Enlightenment Project's 3-D art display!

Monday, March 29, 2010

disABILITY and Health Care Reform

So clearly the health care reform has been a hot topic in the past week because the new bill-The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by Barack Obama on March 23, 2010 and he signed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act on March 25, 2010. These are events that will go down in history and change the scope of health care in America forever.

According to the white house website, this is what health care reform means in simple terms:

Health reform will make health care more affordable, make health insurers more accountable, expand health coverage to all Americans, and make the health system sustainable, stabilizing family budgets, the Federal budget, and the economy:

* It makes insurance more affordable by providing the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, reducing premium costs for tens of millions of families and small business owners who are priced out of coverage today. This helps 32 million Americans afford health care who do not get it today – and makes coverage more affordable for many more. Under the plan, 95% of Americans will be insured.
* It sets up a new competitive health insurance market giving millions of Americans the same choices of insurance that members of Congress will have.
* It brings greater accountability to health care by laying out commonsense rules of the road to keep premiums down and prevent insurance industry abuses and denial of care.
* It will end discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions.
* It puts our budget and economy on a more stable path by reducing the deficit by more than $100 billion over the next ten years – and more than $1 trillion over the second decade – by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud and abuse.

So you're probably wondering why I am posting this in my disABILITY blog. What does health care reform have to do with disABILITY rights? Well, it actually has a whole lot to do with it. I've talked before about how the idea of disability does not just extend to what society perceives to be a mental, emotional, or physical disability. I think the U.S. government was previously "disabling others" when those 32 million Americans could not afford health insurance and quality health care.

I also think another very important piece of the health care reform bill is that it will end discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions. There are countless instances of Americans being denied coverage because of a "pre-existing condition" and because of this they could not obtain the proper care they needed, and this resulted in outcomes as serious as death. Here is a story that happened just this past week about a newborn dying because his application for health care was denied, since the new health care reform bill does not actually go in effect until September. If denying someone care because of a pre-existing condition is not considered to be an act of disabling others, then I don't know what is. This new bill will stop discrimination against people with various disabilities.

Personally I think health care reform is a great thing and an awesome move in the right direction for the disability community, but obviously I am just writing this as a personal opinion and this is not necessarily the opinions of everyone in the disability community or even the disABILITY Enlightenment Project. Feel free to comment with your own opinions!

Monday, March 22, 2010

How do you disable others?

So far in this blog I've talked about various different types of disabilities and the subject and language of disability as a whole, but I've never really asked the question, how do you disable others?

I first encountered this question when I came back from a semester in Washington, eager to embark on a disABILITY awareness campaign at Stonehill. Martha Ucci, director of Academic Achievement, gave me this toolkit to help me start my project off. University of Hawai'i- Manoa has an awesome disability studies program. A group from the university that calls themselves "Team Access" created this set of project ideas that would educate a group of people- most likely a college campus, about disabilities and this project would hopefully sustain itself longer than just a one day event.

Anyway, the recurring theme in this toolkit designed by "Team Access" was "Think About How You Disable Others..." One of the ideas they offered was to send out post cards around campus and this one expanded on the idea of disabling others:

"Thinking about how you disable others" could be a number of things. It could be carrying false assumptions, like the idea that people with learning disabilities are stupid or that people who are blind need help with everything. It also could be by your actions, like blocking a ramp by locking your bike on it (which I have seen done MANY times at Stonehill...)

Disabling others is something that isn't just done to people that possess society's notion of something that is considered a physical or mental disability. I've talked before about how the language we use can disable others, but that isn't even the half of it. You can disable people by smirking and laughing when they speak up during class. You can disable people by talking about them behind their back. You can disable people by avoiding and not including them. You can disable people by having preconceived ideas about their abilities. You can disable people by oppressing and abusing them. Get the picture? There are so many ways you can disable people from living happy, accomplished, and fruitful lives.

Professor Dahlin has mentioned in Disability? before that we do not know much of what the people who surround us have been through in their lives. I think this humbles us and is why we need to be more open and put more thought into what we say and how we behave, because our words and our actions have the potential to disable others.

On another note, the blog is officially up on Stonehill's website!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In My Language

Watch this video: In My Language

We watched this video in my Disability? class the other day and I found it extremely interesting and even mind-blowing. This woman challenges our idea of how people in society are expected to speak and behave. The maker of the video describes it as,

"The first part is in my "native language," and then the second part provides a translation, or at least an explanation. This is not a look-at-the-autie gawking freakshow as much as it is a statement about what gets considered thought, intelligence, personhood, language, and communication, and what does not."

I'm not really going to say anything else about the video. I want to let you draw your own conclusions from it! Please watch!!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Our Day

On Tuesday February 23, 2010, I and another Stonehill student- Brian, attended "Our Day" at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. "Our Day" is a day of advocacy for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind, and over a hundred representatives came from all over the state to learn about issues affecting the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind community, as well as to meet with their legislators to educate them about and advocate for these pressing issues.

The main issue that the attendants at Our Day were focused on was to fight against the proposed budget cuts to the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Advocates for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind understand that the state has a large deficit, and are therefore they not asking for increases in the budget allotted to the state offices that assist them, but they would just rather that cuts not be made to these offices that are already very poorly funded. The budget for the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing provides for very important services guaranteed under the First Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act—the right of the Deaf community to have American Sign Language interpreters. The ASL certification, referral, and training programs provided by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing are vital for Deaf people to participate in the work place and society. By cutting services to the Deaf community, but not other groups of people, the government is saying that the needs of these citizens are secondary and unimportant.

The attendants of "Our Day" wanted to make sure that the needs of the Deaf community were not invisible or pushed to the wayside. The morning part of the program was dedicated to people speaking about issues like the budget cuts. Speakers included Heidi Reed—Commissioner for the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Senator Patricia Jehlen, Representative Barbra L’Italien, and Robyn Powell—Assistant Director for the Disability Policy Consortium of Massachusetts. They all reiterated the importance of speaking to your legislators, because just by showing up in their offices, a person really has the ability to make an impact.

After the morning speakers, Brian and I had the opportunity to link up with a large group of other Deaf advocates from the southeastern area of Massachusetts. We went on to visit with Representative F. Jay Barrows who represents Foxborough, Mansfield and Norton, and then with the legislative aids of Senator Mark Montigny (New Bedford, Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, and Mattapoisett), Senator Michael Morrissey (Quincy, Braintree, Holbrook, Abington, Rockland), and Representative Antonio Cabral (New Bedford). Members of the Southeast group told the legislators and their aids personal stories. One young man explained how he was in the hospital for an invasive procedure and could not obtain an ASL interpreter for days to explain that he was in horrible pain.

These stories and the sheer number of people that showed up to participate in Our Day seemed to really have an impact in the legislative offices. They were really receptive to what we were saying. Brian told me how he was happy that the legislators and their aids cared about our concerns and were really approachable.

The majority of the attendees of the day long program knew or at least had some understanding of ASL. It was interesting for me because I don't know ASL at all, but attending Our Day made me really want to learn. There were a total of eight designated interpreters at the event and a number of other volunteers, so I was able to communicate with others even though I didn't know ASL. Also, the interpreters were extremely helpful when the regional groups met with the offices of their senators and representatives. But still, I would have really liked to speak with people directly without the use of a translator, so hopefully I will be able to take an ASL class someday. I also think that it is important for people to understand that ASL is not just a form of English- but a totally different language in itself. One of the people in my group did a great job at explaining this because he said if you do the literal translation of "My mother passed away" to ASL, the person receiving the message would think the person said "My mother just walked by." I have talked to a lot of students at Stonehill that think that ASL should be offered more often, and it should count towards the one year language requirement that we must take. Right now I think the ASL class just counts towards a health care major, but from my understanding it is a REALLY popular class. Also you know that it is a popular class because an 8am class usually does not have people fighting to get in!

Overall "Our Day" was a successful event, and Richard Grant, Dean of Academic Achievement and Chairman of the Stonehill Disability Services Committee explains that it is important for students to go visit with their legislators, "to see how government works, and potentially have an impact on the passage of a law and recognize that if students do go, it has a tremendous impact."

If anyone reading this is interested in attending another event like this, sign up for free to become a member of the Disability Policy Consortium of Massachusetts at

Monday, February 22, 2010

disABILITY Simulations

So the other week at one of our meetings the topic of disability simulation activities came up when we were brainstorming ideas for our booth at the body fair on Wednesday. For those of you who don't know, a disability simulation activity is where people get the opportunity to "try on a disability." It is oftentimes done by disability rights groups and usually entails having people "test out wheelchairs" or get blindfolded to "know what it's like to be blind."

When I was working in DC I attended a hearing and vision loss support group where the discussion leader had us all put on these glasses that caused us to have limited vision and put ear plugs in our ears. She then gave us all a different task to do- I think mine was searching for a phone book and looking up a particular number. I understand that her intentions were good- she wouldn't be leading a hearing and vision loss support group if they weren't, but I really think these simulations aren't the greatest of ideas.

I know I came out of that exercise feeling frustrated and discombobulated. Also oftentimes people will come out of those simulation activities thinking to themselves "gosh, I'm glad I am not stuck in a wheelchair all day" or "I feel sorry for people who are blind."

Feelings of pity or "glad that's not me..." are not the aim of disability rights advocates. Spending 15 minutes blindfolded or even a whole week in a wheelchair are not going to give a person a true sense of what it feels to be disabled. Pity is the last thing disability rights advocates want people to feel. Also these exercises also seem to be almost mocking in nature?

I found this article to have some pretty interesting insight on the subject of disability simulations. The author, Brew-Parrish, explained, "I AM BAFFLED AS TO WHY nondisabled people see a need to simulate a disability in order to understand our situation. Across our nation in February, we celebrate Black History Month. Is it necessary for people with white skin to paint their faces black to better understand this minority? Should heterosexuals be asked to experience homosexuality so we are not homophobic?"

I feel like we do not need to experience something in order to understand it. Yet we also need to be realistic in saying that there is no way we can truly understand what anybody else is experiencing in his or her life, and that has absolutely nothing to do with disability. I don't have the capability to physically enter into someone else and view the world from their body. I can try to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" in a purely mental sense and work as best I can to learn about others, but there is no activity in the world that can let people experience what it feels like to be someone else.

Anyway, I hope you all liked this post! Let me know if you have any input or want to write a post of your own.

Stonehillers, don't forget about "OUR DAY" (a day of advocacy for the deaf, deaf-blind, and hard-of-hearing) at the State House tomorrow and a meeting in the group center in the lower commons tonight!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Language and disABILITY

So, I have been loosely following the olympics, as I am sure many of you also have been, and I was watching as Alexandre Bilodeau won the ski moguls to become the first Canadian to win a medal inside the country's borders. The reporters kept saying how exciting this was for Canada and how close Bilodeau was to his little brother with cerebral palsy. The reporters continued focusing on Frederic Bilodeau, but what caught my attention is how they kept saying he was "suffering with cerebral palsy" and how he was "confined to a wheelchair."

Suffering? Confined? Are these really words we should be associating with disability? I've heard other phrases such as "wheelchair bound" and "that person is stricken with..." or "a victim of..." Some people even continue to use terms such as dumb, slow, gimp, midget, mentally retarded, cripple, and so on.

By using these terms we are disabling others. If someone is disabled, who has the right to say they are "suffering"? Or if someone is a wheelchair user, he or she is certainly not "bound" to it.

I think sometimes we don't realize how powerful the words we use actually are and the impact they have on people. By using terms with negative connotations we are oppressing others and I think we need to learn how to speak in such a way that is positive and respectful.

Language and disABILITY is something I am very interested in, so if anybody has any information on where I can learn more, I would definitely appreciate it!

Don't forget about the meeting tonight in Duffy 219 @ 8:30!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Standing Up

As many of you know I consider myself to be a disABILITY rights advocate, and not many people would contest that statement. I feel as if I do a lot of things to promote disABILITY rights awareness on and off campus and I feel pretty good about what I do.

Well, the other day I was a pretty crappy advocate (pardon my French.) I was at my work- a hospital, and it was just me and one of my VERY superiors around and I heard him on the phone saying horrible awful things about someone with a developmental disability. In fact, he was even imitating her and making fun of her and it was making me absolutely sick to my stomach. I can't go into much more detail, just because of the line of work I am in, but take my word for it- the stuff my superior was saying was disgusting, mean, and hurtful, and I and the person he was on the phone with were the only people who heard it.

What did I do about it?

Nothing. Unless you count a dirty look, but in my opinion dirty looks don't count as advocacy.

Ever since work this past Friday I've felt horrible because I didn't say anything just because this man was my superior. I was afraid and I didn't want to cause "drama" in the work place.

I should have said something. I should have reported him, but I didn't.

However even though I didn't stand up to this person who was treating a person with a disability as if they didn't matter, it got me thinking a lot. From that point on I made a vow to myself, that even if I am eating lunch with the President of the United States and he makes a comment as offensive and sickening as my superior did, then I am going to say something about it.

Advocacy isn't something you just do when it's convenient and easy for you, but its something you need to do in every aspect of your life. I hope you all will take this vow with me- to advocate for disABILITY rights 100% of the time.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Peter Wong and disABILITY

Long time no post! I got a little lazy over the holiday break... but now that I'm back at Stonehill this blog will be in full swing again!

Anyway,I'm a political science and communication double major here at Stonehill, so I've been working pretty hard to meet those requirements... but now that I am a 2nd semester senior I have two elective spots, so I signed up for two healthcare classes taught by Professor Dahlin- HC 103 Introduction to Gerontology and HC 170 Disability? I decided to take gerontology because as some of you may know, in addition to disABILITY rights issues, I also am extremely passionate about elder issues.

But anyway, HC 170 Disability? is described as follows:

What do the words disability, handicapped and challenged really mean? In what ways am I disabled and how can I use that knowledge? What has science contributed to our challenged populations? What are the personal and societal values toward challenged populations? How have history and religion contributed to those values? Am I, are we, doing enough? Students review personal and societal fears about disability, learn to confront and change negative attitudes and values, understand medical causes, effects and treatment of a wide range of clinical disorders, and develop a belief and value system which includes positive attitudes toward the emotionally and physically challenged.

I entered into my first session of Disability? this past Thursday for a two and a half hour session, and was amazed by what I had learned. Professor Dahlin had brought in his dear, long-time friend, Peter Wong to introduce us to the subject of disABILITY.

Dahlin explained to us that over 25 years ago when Wong was a teenager, he had met him at Lakeville State Hospital. The professionals at the hospital had diagnosed Wong as profoundly developmentally disabled, and they did not expect him to live much longer. According to an article in the Boston Herald written in 1997, the hospital workers believed that, "with his condition, the result of oxygen deprivation during birth, Wong could not swallow and would probably choke to death." Dahlin, an occupational therapist, had quickly figured out that Wong was definitely not developmentally disabled. He had cerebral palsy and was tested as having an IQ measuring over 140.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke ( defines Cerebral Palsy as such:

"The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination but don’t worsen over time. Even though cerebral palsy affects muscle movement, it isn’t caused by problems in the muscles or nerves. It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements. The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months or years later. The early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before a child reaches 3 years of age. The most common are a lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia); stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity); walking with one foot or leg dragging; walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait; and muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy. A small number of children have cerebral palsy as the result of brain damage in the first few months or years of life, brain infections such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis, or head injury from a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or child abuse."

Anyway, as an occupational therapist, Dahlin had spent a month with Wong, teaching him how to swallow so that he would never have to be fed with a syringe again (which was what the Lakeville State Hospital workers were doing). Dahlin and Wong had reconnected years later, when Wong was already an adult, living a successful life in an apartment in Park Square. Wong is famous in the city of Boston- not for his disABILITY, but for the cart he runs right in front of the Burberry Store (at which he frequently shops at). He started out selling beverages, but later on he and Dahlin had developed a line of hats (cleverly named HandiCaps) which proved to be a very successful business endeavor.

Wong had never let his disABILITY stop him from doing what he wanted to do. In class, he had told us that Cancun was one of his favorite vacation spots, and he had visited there frequently. He has met numerous celebrities and athletes. A picture of Wong is even displayed in the Smithsonian! Wong is very friendly and talkative, and willing to answer questions about himself. In class we all asked him questions about his favorite athletes, whether or not he was involved in disABILITY advocacy, and even what the hardest part of having a disABILITY was. He answered all of the questions thoughtfully and truthfully.

Dahlin had invited Wong to the first class of the semester since almost the very beginnings of him teaching the class. I think it was great to have him there, because any preconceived notions that anyone in the class had about disABILITIES were thrown out the window.

The question mark in the title of class is important because it emphasizes the question what does being disABLED really mean? I think that's why I named my group The disABILITY Enlightenment Project. I want to emphasize the ABILITY and pay less attention to the "dis-."

I am excited for this class and I am really glad I got the chance to meet Peter Wong.

Anyway, for all you students, don't forget! First disABILITY Enlightenment Project meeting of the semester tonight @ 9PM in Duffy 219! Be there or be square!